In the midst of Spring, two years ago, aged twenty I wrote the following:
I don’t know who I am; every aspect of my personality and every action of mine confuses, excites and terrifies me. It is the fear of the unknown, of what I have been and what I will become. But, does it really matter? Have I ever been something or someone, and will I ever be anything? Maybe I will just be, and maybe that is good and the happiest place to be. I don’t know who I am, I probably never will, and I don’t really need to know. I heard someone say today that we should be reminded that we’re on a planet, floating in a vast infinite space, amongst unfathomable phenomena. In the grand scheme of things, it will never matter who I am or what I do.
What matters, is that I stop worrying about what matters.
At the time, let’s just say I was finally finding the light at the end of what felt like a very long tunnel. ‘Age 20’, as I’d called it, was one revelation amongst many. I had thought the feeling of numbness came from winter’s mornings, searching for something in the freezer and a holding a bag of peas on a stubbed toe. Instead, numbness became my life being ‘normal’, brimming with privilege even. And yet, I cried without reason, rib cracking sobs. And yet, at times my heart hung sore, as if there had been several failed attempts at pulling it out of my chest to drop it on the floor. And yet, sometimes the only thing which would calm me was submerging myself in a bathtub to listen to my own heartbeat. Telling myself I was insignificant at age 20 was just the ticket. Taking a step back helped me feel less numb and return back to an old self I truly believed I had lost somewhere.
It’s the 1st of January and I’m 22. To usher in the new year I’d like to reflect on what I have learned and achieved since being 20 years old, now 23 is only months away. No doubt, I’ll still have more to learn.
Age 21 began with travelling with my best friends. I learnt you can never apply too much suncream, I learnt to snorkel and tread deep, jelly-fish infested waters. I learnt that years of your life can begin positively.
As my final year of university came to a close, I learnt sometimes you end up doing things alone, I learnt there is still a stigma around mental health and often people feel they deserve some sort of explanation. In hindsight, I’ve learnt you should explain, you should be open – otherwise you lose. I learnt loss is painful, whether the person is still breathing or not. However, I also learnt I work hard and I am extremely capable with a First degree and prize to prove it. I am still learning it is okay to be proud of this.
Then, as the Summer began so did my teacher training. If I am able to summarise what I learnt in this time, it will be a miracle. I learnt like-minded people do exist, I learnt I can stay in a hotel room alone without having a meltdown. I learnt to trust myself, make fun of myself and enjoy myself – and that was just the Summer.
At the front of a classroom I realised I care with every ounce of my being. I learnt I can be incredibly patient. I do have have presence and I can tell a fifteen year old to sit down despite many wondering how on earth I’d do this. I learnt that young people are incredibly special, fun and good to be around. I also learnt schools are very political and uncomfortable places to be in at times. Towards the end, I realised I had balls – an inner, unapologetic strength which surprised me and drove me to both tears of frustration and success. Most importantly, I began to learn more about what makes me happy and hope by 23, I’ll know even more.
I’ve travelled more than I’ve ever done these past two years, in and outside of the UK. The Midlands taught me that lemurs do not mind the cold so much? Dudley Zoo I’m looking at you… Scotland reminded me of a love for my childhood both through the places I visited and the people I saw. I learnt that unsurpassing beauty is not too difficult to find. Gozo taught me the value of family. It reminded me of the hilarious, odd and gorgeous people I am honoured to say I am related to. Unfortunately, I also learnt scuba diving is panic attack inducing. Sweden reminded me why I am in love, why peace and quiet is beautiful and how much I enjoy being somewhere new – despite the fears I’ve held in the past. Oh, and that I’m pretty good in escape rooms.
I’ve also met some incredible people – fallen in love with friendships again and learning to maintain them better, although this is still a work in progress. I became a qualified teacher and learnt I can probably never thank enough the people who went with me on this journey.
To finish, I have learnt being a mother to a kitten is tough, I love Snapchat filters no end, blogging about education isn’t for me but writing is and doing absolutely nothing except lie around in your pyjamas, is sometimes the best medicine.
Oh, and I learnt my hair can grow past shoulder-length.
In response to Age 20 – you are beginning to learn who you are and that person can be kind, patient and ecstatic. What you do in life will matter; because by now you’ve already told one girl she can be a poet and one boy he can win an Academy Award. Keep going.